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Pitch Black (2000)
I liked this film. You knew most of the people were gonna die, so you went with it wanting to find out how. It was your typical strangers encounter strange planet and find out that they've arrived at exactly at the celestial time that the planet's insane night time creatures come to attack for a spell. How predictable. Riddick is only helpful to the storyline, as he can see in the dark, as the creatures can. The most amusing point is finding out the boy was really a girl based on her menstrual cycle as a target.
The acting was really good, but you were faced with the typical range of interstellar crew mates. The indecisive, yet resilient captain. The religious dude. The cop who's carrying a psycho, but doesn't do a good job as said psycho becomes loosed. The idiot who thinks everywhere in Paris in the springtime. Etc, etc. The same inane characters exist within all films of this genre. Pitch Black emerges in a different sense because it utilizes a murdering ex-convict as it's antihero and savior of the film. He has loyalties to no one and would like to help the creatures if he could, but manages to yell a monotone "Keep up" as his way of helping. Naturally, he doesn't help at all, but offers some strange sense of comfort for leading the way.
The creatures weren't all that scary. They even bled blue blood. How's that going really raise hair on our arms? It was like watching Nickolodeon's Double Dare with all the blue goo from dead creatures, not a serious "I gotta get the heck off this planet cuz these things will kill me" feel. The movie's saving grace is Riddick, because you want everyone to die anyway, as you're thoroughly annoyed with them in the first 1/2 hour of the film. He feels the same way you do and isn't afraid to show it. His questioning of God is warranted, but the holy man is merely a plot device for Riddick to tell God that he's not altogether pleased with him in truck driver language. It's watchable because Riddick is watchable. The movie fails in itself without hm and that's why he got a sequel. Maybe that's why they killed off the other characters in "Chronicles". We just want Riddick and more of him.
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Is It Just Me?
This movie didn't make a great amount of sense. No really. It didn't. You didn't understand the enemy. You didn't understand the sorceress witchy lady. None of it. I loved Pitch Black, but this was like the unwanted red-headed step-child of movie sequels. Vin didn't seem to need a terrible amount of acting skill for this role. "Please talk like the governor of California for the entire film please, Mr. Diesel. We'll handle the rest." I'm sure the conversation went something like that when this was in negotiation. It was sci-fi, but without any purpose or explanation as to why things worked as they did in this world. You have Dame Dench disappearing, but what exactly is her people? Her story? The movie behaved like Star Wars by creating characters from outer space, but refused to explain why they could do the things they do. Why they were even apart of the major storyline. Thandie was alright, but what much else could she do besides attempt to walk around in that skintight dress? I'm at a loss for the whole mythology behind everyone worshiping this weird dead war god type thing. I love Karl Urban, ever since the days of Xena (I watch all alum), but his great acting was unnecessary in this film, because his motivations made no sense. He was confusing in an already confusing movie. Then, the two characters you recognize for Pitch Black are killed off. Umm...aren't they kinda necessary to maintaining a fan base? They're the only ones we know and understand! The movie was like a walking and talking plothole disaster. It's barely watchable.
Shi mian mai fu (2004)
How Hot Was This?
This is seriously a beautiful and stunning movie. Chinese directors should really give lessons to American film makers on how to construct such engaging cinematography and plot lines. The movie had everything you needed. I didn't mind in the least that it required subtitles. Hell, I watch English movies with captions just because actors tend to not enunciate or the sound director isn't altogether capable. But I digress.
The movie works as a kind of story within a story. There are many layers that get revealed as the journey goes on. Zhang stars as a blind exotic dancer/martial artist who is led by a handsome costar, back to her people, who seek to destroy the corrupt government of the time. The two progress from barely tolerant to an all-encompassing love for the other as they save each other's lives time and again as they try to return to her people. He is a charming and flirty man's man who brings the challenge upon himself to woo a strong, blind woman, but becomes less task-oriented when he actually learns about her. She, in turn, lets her defenses down as she discovers that he is "her wind". They have remarkable chemistry, as they are playful and passionate in their youth and sexual tension.
It's truly a suspense, romance, and action film that looks like a water painting or ballet to watch. The fight scenes are seamed and tailored, and gorgeous to view. Both utilized such grace and style that you wanted to fight with such nonchalance. As easy as walking. I admired that it wasn't too "Crouching Tiger" in its presentation. I found that movie a little too much with them walking or flying across trees. This movie made it a little more believable by executing moves with such force and slight of hand, that it quelled the suspension of disbelief. The acting was top-notch and on par throughout the film. They were a lovable and enticing cast. In particular, you wanted to know more about Mei and her guide and you wanted them to fall for each other. The intrigue mounts as the story develops the true nature of Mei's capture and her position within her people. Her lover is left to question the very sincerity of their relationship as more plot-thickenings emerge.
I highly recommend this film to all. Don't be afraid of the subtitles. The Chinese film industry is really on a whole other level of film making than America. It's poetic with every shot and reminds you of old medieval tales in its unfolding. It is seriously a great and grand film. The fight scenes were excellent. Especially the scene of Mei mimicking the sounds on the gourds as a dance. It was sexy and delicate at the same time. The way the fabric of her clothing moved was visually stunning and breathtaking. I could immediately see this film taking place in North Africa, particularly Morocco, with black actors in the roles. The cultures seemed so similar, that's why I could envision it. Hey, it could work. Let's think about it America...lol. It was earthy, yet divine and lofty. I don't know how else to describe it. A beautiful movie by all my standards.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
Why this Team?
I'm at a loss. This entire movie made absolutely no sense. It was like watching a Soderburg film for football. The camera cutting, the pace, all so copied. I thought the subject was too not serious for them to treat it like it was. Yes, we all know Southerners like football and beauty pageants. Must we be inundated with it as an audience? I watched because of Lee and Jay. I was expecting young talent assembled in the style of Dead Poet's Society or similar to Remember the Titans. I was completely put off by the film. You didn't get the characters. It was character driven, but you didn't understand anyone's motivations or their actions for the most part. The one kid who's mom is obsessed with him being a football player. Why is he so silent? What's his deal? Did we really need the scene with him "proving" his heterosexuality? Why should we care? The movie gave us insights into these kids lives, and offered no pay-off for caring. It just made no sense.
And why show a movie about a team that lost? I know it's real life, but who makes movies about losers? Give us some pay-off for these guys working as hard as they did with all their "conceivable" problems, darnit. We got nothing. We got a little blip at the end of the film telling us that Mojo won the next year with the 3rd stringer (Lee). Why didn't you follow that story? What were we to get out of this one? The movie led you along, but didn't lead you anywhere. I just felt like something was missing. It felt like a bad genetic cross between Varsity Blues and Remember the Titans. At least those two movies led you somewhere. Friday Night Lights was about a loser team that lost their star player early in the movie. The actor who played him was great. You were completely annoyed by him, which was the point, but at least you understood why. They made sure you understood him, but he couldn't play, so why make sure we get his issues?
And the other team in the play-offs...are we to believe those are high school teens? Those men looked like college seniors or professional player in their 30s. Who were they trying to kid? I know the other team was to look intimidating, but that was crossing the line a little. I liked the gritty element of them negotiating with the black team, but again, how did this fit into the overall theme of the film. Nothing pieced together. The characters knew more about each other than we did, and that settles weird with me. Jay's characters had absolutely nothing to add, but he was showcased. It was all just a mess. Not worth a movie ticket or a rental fee.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
For playing a chick who didn't have much to say, Scarlett nailed it. If you wanna watch and follow someone on screen who doesn't do much, that's pretty amazing. She's enchanting on screen. Quickly becoming one of my fave actresses. I admire her acting style and hope to adapt some of it to my own. Some find her a bit too quiet and mute to find any potential in her, but that's precisely why I like her. You find her quiet presence refreshing and real. Chattiness is not a familiar trait in most human relations, so why behave as if it is? The movie was slow and boring for most of its length, but you watched for Scarlett. Cillian Murphy was burgeoning himself, but you didn't care if he was there or not. Colin Firth was not the choice I would've made, and the fact that he wasn't first choice showed. You just didn't want to pay attention to him, even though he was the male lead. That's pretty sad. Griet's blossoming relationship with Cillian's character was OK, but the lovemaking seemed out of place for what parts of the relationship you saw. It just seemed as if she couldn't have Vermeer, so she settled for this cat as some kind of replacement. I just didn't get the scene. Perhaps if Scarlett fleshed out the silent nature of her character a bit more, I would have understood the need for the sex scene. It was greatly executed by the way. Illicit, intense, and passionate, yet at the same time, seemed a mere fling. A great paradox for a simple scene. I don't recommend the film based on its plot, but for the nuances of Scarlett's acting and the gorgeous camera work.
Gritty and Disturbing
Charlize did an amazing job of transforming herself into this woman. You didn't see Charlize anymore. You saw this ill-treated and disturbed woman trying to make sense of the life that she's led. You can really see how abusing children can lead to traumatized and dangerous adults. You almost understood her deranged logic for killing johns, but you knew she had to go down, because you already knew the story. I felt sorry for her because it seemed like the woman didn't have a chance. Life just dealt her blow after blow, so it's like, who wouldn't make the choices she did? Was she really a monster? She seemed more like a woman without a childhood or a sense of living beyond herself. Yea, she spoke about wanting to be famous and more than her pitiful beginnings, but she never elevated herself to those lofty ideals. She kept thinking that life owed her something, and let's face it, life doesn't work that way. It appeared to me that that was her tragic flaw: her expectations.
Ricci's adaptation of Selby irked me to no end. Why was she acting like some meek child throughout the whole film? She's usually praised as the "Indie Movie Princess", but I found her severely lacking in this film. I was shocked to find that she would continue the entire movie like a 4-yr old child. You never sensed her confusion with defining her sexuality with her Christianity. She was an odd choice to the depth and intensity of Charlize's Aileen. You just felt like Ricci was skipping through her lines waiting to hit the catered food table when the director yelled "Cut!". I was really surprised, because I would hate to think that her acting as Wednesday was better than her in this. She was like 11 when she did that. You think she'd have matured in her acting range.
The movie was deep and gritty. It was truly a great movie for Charlize that was worthy of the Oscar. I'd hate to think actresses have to play seedier elements of femininity to win Oscars, but it's a small step.
The Transporter (2002)
This film had such a crazy energy. I loved it! Statham has a wonderful and clean fighting style that I've come to admire. Yes, I actually check out fighting styles in action/martial arts films. I like to see that the actor is making up an individual fighting style that suits their character. His fighting was as clean, smooth, and edgy as his driving. I wanted to be in the car with him. A movie's good when you wanna be in it. I was a little put off by the ending being about the Asian slave trade. It was resolved rather blandly and haphazardly. All of a sudden, there's a mass of Asian slaves coming out at the end. You didn't find out anything til the end, and you were still kinda confused. They should have explained things a little earlier and a lot more clearly. As an action film, however, it pumps you up. The music they used was really hot and had you bumping and feeling like he'd be a cool dude to chill with. As a storyline issue, you weren't sure if he was French or from somewhere else and living in France. You just wanted to know more about him so you'd have a stronger basis for rooting for him. All you know is that he can fight, drive, and catch the ladies. He's a French Bond? He's clearly more than that, so they should've fleshed Frank out a little more. I know it's an action film, but Jason's worth the effort :). Truly a good film to get into. Statham better keep up the good work.
The Italian Job (2003)
Great Stuff Right Here
How great was this movie? I loved it. The ensemble cast was the right choice. You felt as if you were watching an old group of friends, they vibed so well. I thought Norton was a badly cast choice for his role, but qué sera. There "mos def" was some other talent that coulda been used for that role. Seth Green's obsession with being called "Napster" was highly amusing. He lucked out. The fake one got shut down, lol. Charlize still felt like an outsider and her ending up with Mark just seemed like a last minute choice or an obvious choice, because they're the pretty people of the film. They had no chemistry whatsoever and them getting together was like, "Ok...I guess...". I like movies like this because it feeds into certain sociological theories like functionalism: everybody has a role. Movies like this are usually good, unless badly cast, because everyone gets a good amount of screen time because they're needed for the overall result. Jason Statham, hot as ever, was charming and smooth as Handsome Rob. Gotta love this cat. Mos Def really held it down as Left Ear. You could buy that he knew his way around explosives. Humans fascination with fire...lol. The action was a good pace. Made you want to be in the film and apart of the gang. The cinematography was rather lush for an action film, especially in Italy. Venice is a gorgeous city. It was a lot of clean shots that I really liked. Great film because of the energy and chemistry of the actors, save some minor mishaps. Great watch!
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Liked it Best
I've watched all three Blades, and really liked this one because it was edgier. I understand the one comment about siphoning off all of Blade's humor and fight scenes to Ryan and Jessica, but he's always had help. In the first film, it was the black chica. In the second, Leonor Varela. And Whistler's always been there as a backup. I found this movie better in terms of the technological advancements, the music, the dress, the lines, the action. Blade still got to kick Drake's butt in the end, so that was the important element of the film.
Jessica's character was so poorly developed, I'm not sure who she was. Was she a warrior poet? She was so unnecessarily sensitive, it just made you go "Huh?". Blade was a little more quiet in this one, but he's pretty monotone anyway. You can't spark much conversation with the guy. I loved the look of the new vamps. Parker Posey amused me and she did an excellent job with her character. Ryan was the amusing sidekick and added an element of, "Please, it's just a movie" for all those hardcore fans.
The first Blade was such a pre-cursor to the Matrix, it's not funny. It should continue to lead the path for excellent fighting scenes with it's smooth camera work. The second Blade was a little more boring, but you could watch it. I was a little put off when I found out Blade had to fight Dracula in the 3rd installment. Don't all vamp films end up with everyone fighting this guy? I mean, let him rest, wherever the he** he is (that's probably precisely where he is). But, Blade Trinity handled it well and in a poetic way. Can't say the same for Buffy when she had to fight him. What a poorly executed episode. Anyways, the movie is extremely watchable and fun to get into. It doesn't take itself too seriously and that's what makes it the best Blade so far. The feel of the film seems flawless, despite the numerous goofs technically. Any action film that makes me wanna get ripped and start carrying old school weaponry is a good movie!
The Notebook (2004)
Love, Love, Love This Movie
This movie was beyond beautiful. The entire plot was just magical, sweet, and tender. I own the movie and it has become one of my favorite films. I enjoy the great love the characters have for each other. I work in a nursing home, so seeing that kind of affection from old school folks really does exist. It's warm to see that kind of love outlast some of the turmoil and cruelty life throws your way. It's so hurtful to watch the person you love and adore not remember you little by little. They forget the life you've shared. Alternately, Allie's depression and turmoil that she's forgetting the one thing that's been a constant in her life. The older characters played their parts to a T. You sensed the deep love and loyalty he had to his wife's well-being.
Ryan and Rachel were adorable together. I can't imagine anyone else in their parts, but I'm sure it could be doable with other actors. These two just had great chemistry like a real relationship. When I say that, I mean, you could see yourself in a relationship like their's. It reminded me a lot of my own relationship with a significant other. Two people come into each other's lives and profoundly affect the other so that nothing can really break that bond. Not years of separation or misunderstanding. That love really does exist, and this movie visualized it for us.
I liked the singularity of Noah's character. He has one parent, one best friend, and one girlfriend. His world is very closed, and Ryan hit upon that well. As Allie, Rachel played her as a likable young girl. Not some spoiled rich chick with no understanding of life. Rachel understood Allie's confusion to play by the rules, but it was different in that she truly loved him. It wasn't some arbitrary set-up by elitist parents. Lon was very deserving of her love. James Marsden has really grown as an actor as well by being in this movie. I look forward to greater things (no more "Disturbing Behavior" films please :D). Beautiful cinematography. Beautiful acting. Beautiful music. It was a love story that was on par with "Love Story" and other greats. Truly recommend.